Fianna Fáil: ‘If we don’t get this sorted out, the Government will collapse’

Zappone asks Hiqa to investigate Tusla amid controversy over treatment of Maurice McCabe

A Fianna Fáil TD has suggested that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil should use their “common sense” to ensure that the Government does not fall over the controversy surrounding the treatment of Garda whistleblower Sgt Maurice McCabe.

The party’s justice spokesman Jim O’Callaghan warned that should the two parties fail to find a way forward, the Government would collapse this week.

He also said the commission of investigation into the treatment Sgt McCabe should proceed.

In an attempt to lower the political temperature in Leinster House, Mr O’Callaghan told reporters: “The public aren’t too worried about a discrepancy between what I say and what the Tánaiste says.”


Mr O'Callaghan and the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald have differed sharply in their account of a meeting last Wednesday to discuss the terms of reference to the investigation into the alleged smearing of Garda whistleblower Sgt McCabe.

Mr O'Callaghan insisted he told the Tánaiste that an RTÉ programme to be broadcast the following evening would feature revelations that a false charge of sexual abuse had been made against Sgt McCabe which led to an investigation by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Ms Fitzgerald has strongly denied that Tusla was mentioned.

This is important because Ms Fitzgerald went into the Dáil the following day and said she was not aware of complaints to any other State agency.

Today’s main developments:

– Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan will not stand aside while the commission of inquiry takes place

– Minister for Children Katherine Zappone asked Hiqa to begin a statutory investigation into Tusla's handling of child sexual abuse allegations

– She also appeared to contradict Enda Kenny over his knowledge of the Tusla file on Sgt Maurice McCabe

– Sgt McCabe is to seek a public inquiry into his case and wants a criminal investigation into his case to be conducted by a body outside the State.

– Supt David Taylor, has been told by the DPP that he will not be prosecuted over alleged leaking of information.

Intensive contact

There has been intensive contact between the two parties to see if their differences can be bridged in advance of Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting and a Dáil motion of no confidence.

Earlier on Monday, Mr O'Callaghan told RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke show he was 100 per cent certain he told the Tánaiste about the Tusla allegation and also "100 per cent certain" he told her she needed to speak to Ms Zappone as she had met with Mr McCabe.

However, speaking to reporters in the afternoon, Mr O’Callaghan appeared to seek to play down their differences and seek a way forward.

“People can have different views of what happened through forgetting things or whatever . . . I’m sorry that this has got into what seems to be a personal dispute between myself and the Tánaiste,” he said.

Asked if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael could proceed on the basis that there was a misunderstanding between the two, he said: “If we don’t get this sorted out, the Government will collapse, okay? I think that would be crazy for the Government to collapse.”

He said the public was interested “in getting a commission of investigation established and the terms of reference agreed. That’s what they want. The Tánaiste has agreed to extend the terms of reference. That must now be done, we must now get agreement on and get the inquiry up and running.

“If the Dáil collapses this week, we won’t have any commission of investigation, that serves the interests of nobody,” he said.

Hiqa inquiry

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone who returned from the US on Monday asked the Health Information Quality Authority to undertake an independent investigation into how Tusla manages allegations of child abuse.

In her statement she said the terms of reference for the Statutory Investigation would be drawn up in conjunction with Hiqa chief executive Phelim Quinn

“I intend to seek advice from the Attorney General, to ensure that its work does not interfere with the work of the commission of inquiry.

“I will be making the terms of reference public as soon as possible and I will be seeking to have the investigation concluded as quickly as possible.”

She has been criticised by several Ministers for not informing the Cabinet of the details of the case before they were aired on RTÉ last Thursday.

Ms Zappone initially insisted she informed relevant colleagues about the issue, but Ms Fitzgerald and Mr Kenny have strongly denied this.

Meanwhile, it is understood Sgt McCabe wants a criminal investigation into his case to be conducted by a body outside the State.

He is to release a statement on Monday afternoon outlining a number of outstanding questions he has with regards to Tusla and the gardaí.

Not standing down

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on Monday said she would not be standing down while the inquiry examines the allegations.

In a statement issued at noon the commissioner said: “My position remains unchanged. Nothing has emerged in the last three weeks which in any way changes that situation.

“A campaign of false accusations, repeated and multiplied, do not make me guilty of anything.

“I have made it clear that I was not part of any campaign to spread rumours about Sgt McCabe and didn’t know it was happening at the time it was happening. I have repeatedly refuted that claim and do so again.

“The easiest option for me would be to step aside until the commission finishes its work.

“I’m not taking that option because I am innocent and because An Garda Síochána, under my leadership, has been making significant progress, with the help of our people, the Government, the Policing Authority and Garda Inspectorate, in becoming a beacon of 21st-century policing,” the commissioner said.

The Taoiseach, who declined to answer questions on this subject, Enda Kenny said in Cork the State had an issue to address.

“There is an issue to be addressed here in the country at the moment.

“That is in respect of a man whose family have been seriously maligned in respect of erroneous allegations of sexual abuse.

“The really important thing now is that the Government set up a commission of investigation and proceed to work as quickly as possible.”

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said the Government was continuing to support the commissioner on the basis that no allegations against her have been proven.

Earlier on Monday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called on the commissioner to assess her position.

Ms O’Sullivan has consistently denied she had any part in or knowledge of any attempt to damage the reputation of Sgt McCabe.

It also emerged on Monday that Supt David Taylor, who alleged senior gardaí sought to discredit Sgt McCabe, would not be prosecuted for alleged leaking of information.

Mr Taylor was arrested and held in connection with giving journalists information about a sensitive case where gardaí in Tallaght removed a Roma child from its family. He has been suspended from his role for 21 months.

The Cabinet is working to agree a unified position on the controversy ahead of a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday and a motion of no confidence in the Government tabled by Sinn Féin.

Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar is understood to be cutting short a State visit with President Michael D Higgins to South America to return for the Cabinet meeting.

Also on Monday, Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Government’s response to the controversy was a “communications cock-up”.

“This in my view is a very deliberate ruse not to be fully forthcoming, not to set out the full facts about the gravity of this situation,” she said.

She said that the Government’s insistence that Ms O’Sullivan remain in the position of Garda Commissioner lacked credibility.